Kindness. When we are kind, we do good to one another. We look out for the interests of another. We take care of one another. We protect each other. Jesus was kind. But the reality is that Christian people are not perfect, we are still broken and messy, and kindness is not always evident in our lives. Christians have at times earned a reputation for being rude, arrogant, judgmental and hypocritical. Sometimes, they have deserved that reputation and other times, it seems an unfair accusation. Most of the people I know who are genuinely following Christ desire to live a life of kindness. They desire to leave a legacy of doing good to others. But the world we live in is one marked by a people that struggle with an inherited selfishness and oftentimes we do not live and love the way we want. Paul reminds us of our nature through the lament of Romans 7:15 “I do not understand my own actions for I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate.” Often times, I start out my day with the fullest of intentions to show kindness. To my husband, my children, my friends and strangers. But then I get tired. I get hungry. I receive unsettling news. My kindness turns to insult. By the time lunch rolls around I am done with kindness and have moved on to rudeness. But meanness is not a fruit the spirit produces and we cannot just settle for being in a perpetual bad mood. We are called to something higher, something holier. Through the stories of Jesus, we see that he is kind and we know that if Jesus is kind God also is kind. Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature, according to Hebrews 1:3.
This week we are digging into John 4. It’s a story about the Insider offering kindness to the outsider, better known as Jesus and the woman at the well.
The interaction we read about does not explicitly point out the kindness of Jesus, but rather implies it as we watch the beginnings of a relationship unfold. As I moved through this story, I saw three very specific ways Jesus shows kindness to the Samaritan woman.
First, Jesus speaks to her. He moves towards her. He opens up space for her in his wearisome journey. This woman was not a friend. She was not a follower. She was not a Jew. In fact, for whatever reason, she was likely at the bottom of the social ladder and her only offering was to pull earth’s water to give him a drink. Her life has a cold feel of loneliness. She was alone during the day, she was alone at the well, and probably felt alone in room full of people. And yet Jesus met this woman in her loneliness and bid the risk of a trusting friendship. These two would be the most unlikely of friends. He was a Jew, she was a Samaritan. He was a man, she was a woman. He was a saint, she was a sinner. And yet, an uncommon friendship had started by the kind act of an invitation to conversation. The kindness of Jesus is fluid and bold. It extends from the most privileged and educated social groups all the way to the lowest caste.
Second, in His kindness, Jesus reveals himself to her. Even though Jesus knows that this woman is not yet able to grasp his truth, he tells her that he can offer her living water and that this living water that he offers is the path to eternal life. His kindness is powered by absolute truth. There is no hemming and hawing about what this woman needs to hear. He offers her truth and waits for her to embrace it, to embrace Him.
Third, Jesus sees this woman. He knows of her string of relationships, he knows why she is at the well during the day by herself without a companion in sight, he knows the harsh yoke around her neck and he also knows she is valuable and precious in the sight of his Father, so his kindness pursues her and he continues this offering of himself, of this living water. He sees her and he doesn’t look away.
And last, instead of judgement he offers pardon. This woman comes to the well as a captive to her sin, to own mind, to her life but she leaves a free woman. How does this grace not blow us away? Paul tells us in Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. Yes, his kindness has always led me to repentance and through repentance my soul is beckoned to the well that does not run dry.
So what do we do with this kindness of Jesus? After we have experienced the benevolence of Jesus, we have to pour this kindness into others. In the book, Teach Us to Want, Jen Pollock Michel talks about being a have in a have not world. As I think about this idea, I remember how unkind this world can be. I think about how many people have not experienced true Christian kindness. The North American church is changing dramatically and it is not the powerful, culture shaping institution it once was. So Christians are often left baffled on how we can continue to influence the world around us for Christ. Well, start with kindness. Kindness is not complicated. Kindness does not mean we have to be doormats. Kindness is not just being nice. And kindness is not just reserved for those outside of our families. Sometimes kindness simply offers friendship instead of competition. It offers grace instead of condemnation. It believes in the best qualities in someone instead of looking for the worst parts of them. Christian kindness is a peculiar kindness. It is distinct because it is grounded on the truth of Jesus Christ. It stems from abiding in the love of God. It is not something we can conjure up on our own and fake, but rather flows from a heart tethered to the One who continually woos us with His kindness. Let it be said of us that we are a peculiar group. That we are different. That the peculiar difference in us, is that we are kind.